New editor Brien committed to community

Thursday, May 2, 2019
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Hello Big Horn County, my name is Luella Brien. I am the new editor of the Big Horn County News. Over the course of the last few months you may have seen my byline in the pages of this publication. I have spent each week since mid-February seeking out news around the county and really getting to reconnect with my community.

I may be familiar to some of you. I grew up in the Crow Agency and Benteen areas and I’m premillennium graduate of Hardin High School.

I feel like I’ve been away from home for so long that I am relearning everything about Big Horn County. I’ve spent the last three years living in Ashland where I worked as an outreach coordinator. Prior to that, I spent five years teaching communication arts at the local tribal college, but my heart has always been in writing and storytelling.

Twenty years ago, right after I graduated from high school. I got a job as the front desk receptionist here at the paper. It solidified in my interest in journalism and it was here that I received a visit from Denny McAuliffe, an associate professor at the University of Montana School of Journalism.

I won a writing contest and he was delivering the prize. He told me the committee had a hard time deciding between first and second place. I asked who took second and when he told me the winner’s name I laughed. I had to confess that I wrote that essay for my best friend because she wanted to go on the trip to Missoula, but she didn’t actually want to do the essay. I collected both prizes and some information about journalism school.

Denny went on to become a mentor and a very important part of my experience at as a student at UM. While there, I attended the prestigious Associate Press Diverse Voices program and the Chips Quinn Scholars program.

I interned at the Seattle Times, the Missoulian and the Great Falls Tribune. I was the first student to be published on Reznet, a news website for Native college students based at UM. I went on to edit, report and write a column for the website – a column that ran in this publication.

I graduated from the University of Montana School of Journalism a few years ago, well more years than I’d like to admit. In the years I’ve spent wandering the world after college graduation, I worked at the Ravalli Republic for 6 months, then the Billings Gazette for 2 years before my section was cut and I was laid off.

After that my life took some fun twists and turns. I freelanced for various publications over the years, but the bills needed to be paid and full-time journalism jobs are few and far between in this part of the country. So I made my living in different fields, and I actually enjoyed my work, but I never loved it the way I love journalism.

I missed writing. I missed the thrill of seeing my name in print. I missed feeding the never ending, forever hungry news beast. Then I came across an ad that read: “Editor: Apply in person.”

I told some friends about it. They encouraged me to apply, and then another person saw it and told me to apply, then another and another. I thought about it, discussed it with more than a handful of people I trusted.

After a few days of deliberation I called the publisher, Jim Eshleman. To my surprise he knew who I was. I threw my hat and resume in the ring and he invited me to come in for a visit. I went to see him for what felt like a very informal conversation. I spoke briefly about my work experience inside and outside of journalism and I heard words I’ve never heard in a job interview before: “The job is yours if you want it.”

I am so happy to be back in the world I love at the place that started it all.

In recent years, there’s been a lot of hype about the state of journalism in the country and a lot has been written about how the industry is dying. There’s even chatter about how we may not need traditional journalism anymore, but in the grand scope of it all, hometown journalism is important and it has a place in our everyday lives. We share your community. We share your concerns. We share your triumphs. We are living and breathing in the same community as our readers.

I am committed to telling Big Horn County’s story. In order to do so I need your help. The lines of communication are wide open. Call us with news ideas, send us your letters to the editor, come by and visit us. We spend so much time living our lives and working our jobs that we forget to really sit down and connect with people.

My goal at the paper is to publish news and features that reflect the entire community. We want to hear from you, not just community leaders and change-makers, all readers. I cannot guarantee that everything will be published, but I can guarantee that I am open to hear your ideas and suggestions.

Thank you for purchasing this publication faithfully each week. I can be reach by email at or by phone at 406-665-1008. If you want to talk in person, swing by the newsroom at 204 N. Center Ave in Hardin.


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